I honestly couldn’t get into this one. Judging by what the blurb said, I had assumed the couple had been in this long relationship they had kept hidden from their Amish circle, only to find out they’ve probably only been together for a year. One is 23 and the other is 19 so I’m absolutely refusing to go below age 18 to support my been together for years theory as I’m not entirely sure on their ages so this relationship is only a year, or just over a year, long depending on when the younger one’s birthday is and the book’s setting—Christmas. This unfortunately kinda took the weight of the situation down a few notches because even with this age difference of four years I was expecting, them to have been hiding this for years and finally escaping. This means an age 27 to age 23 makes that more plausible of an age gap. Or that they started at the same age as teens high school age and now, in their early twenties, have finally escaped. All around, based on the blurb, at the age they are it’s hard to envision the long term situation they are escaping from that I envisioned would be the situation.
The plot was a bit too obvious. Two young carpenters, looking for an apartment and the person who they are trying to rent from has two houses and one with a basement. Obviously the smart thing to do is offer up some free labour for a discount on the house you want. That and if they really want their dream home Isaac the teen whose older brother is letting them stay with him, is more than willing to let them stay rent-free as he and his wife were doing just fine on rent before they were there and don’t need the money. They could actually save for their dream home. And, I can’t remember which, but one of the boys is also studying at college which also costs money so the whole Idea around having a full house with a garage as romantic as it is, makes zero sense for a teen and a 23-year-old to be striving for.
Then, why not try to join an actual firm and work on houses since they both have good skills. Real estate is a thing. In time who knows, maybe they can work their way up to head contractor on building sites. Seeing as they are American after all and young and building a name for themselves they would then have a portfolio of work to show at interviews and get directly into the field and, in theory, would only need their own woodshop for side jobs instead of their entire job.
Also, in the second chapter after the house hunt, there are so many characters just thrown into the same room with no real introduction other than their relationship to each other. The love story, which doesn’t really get much page time as so much time is spent dealing with the large cast, gets sidelined. And I read this chapter a few times to figure out who was what to who and it was confusing. Then the two chapters that end with he got an idea were supposed to be suspenseful but it just felt like without that sentence the chapter would’ve been fine on both accounts.
Additionally, considering they are both carpenters, one of them deciding to offer up his services, like I knew was going to happen, to get a cheaper price without consulting his partner seemed wrong. An apartment is a life-changing moment and they both had skills to lend. Making the dream bed was fine so nothing to say there, but it was just odd. The whole house thing was odd. 2,000 dollars. If they can afford that much a month they are definitely in a position to tough it out with Isaac’s brother a bit longer and put a down payment on a forever home. Most 19 and 23-year-olds with combined income cant afford that. I was expecting 1500 or less. And even that is steep for a kid who’s paying for college and a partner who’s an independent carpenter and not part of a team with a steady flow of projects piling in.
The romance wasn’t there, the plot wasn’t really there, it’s called an English Christmas but there was no real Christmas party situation, which was what I went in for. Expecting a couple finally free to enjoy their forbidden romance tackling the obstacles of a new world during Christmas season, but it was mostly a hodgepodge of characters interacting with each other and then an ending that was supposed to be big and romantic. I dunno, on romance, plot, character development, and a story that matched the blurb this didn’t hit well on any of those notes. A few adult scenes and day to day actives sum up the entirety of this novel. Like one reviewer said and I nipped on above this is their first non-Amish Christmas. Where is the excitement, bewilderment, confusion, general shock and awe of the combination of both being free to date and also stuck in such a hectic, chaotic, yet also beautiful and amazing time of the year? Where is all of that?
Ultimately this book does what most not so good short stories do. Tries to pack too much into the story, in this case loads of characters doing everyday things, and it doesn’t devote enough page time to sink into the relationship. To dig into the journey of two young men enjoying something completely new yet also foreign to them in their home country. And through that journey falling deeper in love with each other. All of which is entirely capable in a novella with a more zoned focus. Then, without spending time on this relationship, it also expects readers to just be okay with the overly sweet, and ambitiously romantic ending that doesn’t have the foundation or groundwork to sell it. Neither does it make sense considering one of them is a college student so spending more money is just weird. This story just sort of happened and left me feeling very, very underwhelmed.